Webber holds off Kubica for Monaco pole

Webber holds off Kubica for Monaco pole

Mark Webber took the sixth pole position of the year for Red Bull Racing in the Grand Prix of Monaco today, keeping the team unbeaten in qualifying so far in the 2010 Formula One season. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing. Photo by ...

Mark Webber took the sixth pole position of the year for Red Bull Racing in the Grand Prix of Monaco today, keeping the team unbeaten in qualifying so far in the 2010 Formula One season.

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"It's fantastic to be on pole and the team has done a very, very good job," said the Australian. "Pole at every race, it's very good for us and the team and Renault. It is a good result for the team so we have to capitalize tomorrow."

Robert Kubica looked set to spring a surprise on the team, but Webber's final lap was a stunner, a 1:13.826 around the streets of the Principality to be the only man to beat 1:14, and take the pole position by a margin of 0.294 seconds.

Kubica had stunned the fans -- and his competitors -- by setting a benchmark time early in the session, 1.1 seconds clear of his challengers, after also being fastest in the morning practice. However, for the final runs, the Renault pilot's tires had already lost their edge, and he was unable to respond to Webber's challenge.

"I was surprised by the pace in practice but miracles don't happen in F1," Kubica said. "Normally when you are very close there is a bit of upset but we have to be realistic, the team has done a great job."

Sebastian Vettel, already the winner of three poles this year in the second Red Bull, might have had a chance as well, at least for a front-row start, but the young German made a mistake at the chicane after the tunnel exit, and that was enough to keep him back in third place, 0.401 seconds behind his teammate.

"I think we still did a step forward but probably it will be better in the race than in qualifying," he reflected. "Now we are third, if they don't crash into the first corner then there won't be a lot of clean air tomorrow."

The big story of the morning had been Fernando Alonso's heavy crash at Massenet: the former world champion tore both of the right-hand wheels off the Ferrari in the morning practice, and damaged the monocoque badly enough to make it unrepairable. The switch to a new car meant that he was not permitted to take part in qualifying, and will start the race from the pit lane.

Robert Kubica, Renault F1 Team .
Photo by xpb.cc.

"We know someone had misfortune today, we saw Fernando," Webber said at the press conference. "We have to capitalize on it tomorrow."

The responsibility for Ferrari qualifying results, then, fell to Felipe Massa, and the veteran Scuderia pilot looked strong in the narrow streets, but after he set his final time, the three Renault-engined cars -- Kubica's Renault as well as the two Red Bull-Renaults -- moved past, leaving the lone Ferrari in fourth, 0.056 seconds behind Vettel's fourth-place time.

That was still better than the McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, were able to achieve today. Hamilton finished the final segment in fifth place, six tenths off Webber's pace, while Button was another two tenths and three positions further back, in eighth place.

The McLaren-Mercedes cars sandwich the two Mercedes works entries. Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in Q2, a 1:14.375 that already would have been enough to better Hamilton, but the young German was unable to put it all together when it counted, and will start sixth, next to the McLaren driver.

Michael Schumacher is back to starting behind his younger teammate again, the seven-time champion giving up five hundredths of a second to Rosberg to start seventh, just ahead of Button.

Button, the World Championship leader, wondered whether the team might have been able to set a faster time on the harder tires, as they could not get good performance out of the soft compound. And then there was the early-session incident, with Felipe Massa baulking the McLaren driver as Button was finishing a flying lap:

"I had so much space and I don't know what he was thinking," Button recalled. "There are only ten cars out there in Q3 so it should be easy to keep out of the way of cars coming round, but he obviously wasn't looking in his mirrors. It was right at the end of a timed lap as well, it was my first timed lap of the session. Very annoying!"

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari .
Photo by xpb.cc.

Rubens Barrichello put in another creditable performance to get his Williams-Cosworth into the final qualifying segment, and took ninth on the grid, ahead of the Force India-Mercedes of Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil, in the second Williams and Force India, respectively, will start 11th and 12th, having just missed getting into Q3.

In Q1, Lotus drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli pushed hard to try and make it into the second segment. The two were able to close within a second of the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, but no closer, so they will once again start as the best of the newcomers -- though tomorrow that will be 18th and 19th, with Alonso's Ferrari taking its start behind them as well.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Heikki Kovalainen , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Robert Kubica , Sebastian Vettel , Kamui Kobayashi , Adrian Sutil , Nico Hulkenberg
Teams Ferrari , Red Bull Racing , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Williams , Renault F1 Team